Liza Lou - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    White Cube, London

  • Exhibited

    London, White Cube, Liza Lou, 03 March – 07 April 2006
    New York, Dominique Lévy, Liza Lou, 24 September – 13 December 2008 (another edition exhibited)

  • Literature

    E. Heartney, et. al, Liza Lou, New York, 2011, pp. 164-169

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Art is a way of seeing the world; it’s a way of reinventing the world.” LIZA LOU

    Completed in 2005, Liza Lou’s Security Fence is a quintessential example of the artist’s attempt to concurrently apply a visionary, conceptual and craft-like approach to her work. Achieved in a similar technique to her earlier installations, Kitchen (1991-1995) and Backyard (1995-1999), the present lot is a laboriously detailed full-scale square structure of chain-link and razor wire− one which successfully investigates political and social themes through a menacingly beautiful space.

    Security Fence marks the artist’s recent development of a body of work that explores dark psychological spaces of violence and confinement. Tiny glass beads cover the entire structure, creating a surface which challenges the viewer’s perceptions of physical barriers and confined spaces, for what should appear as bare and harsh instead shimmers with an extraordinary sleek coating. The structure is characteristic of Lou’s work, in which a particular form is constructed and subsequently covered with miniscule beads that are meticulously applied, each individually, with a pair of tweezers. The resulting piece dazzles with silvery beads, brimming with a surreal quality which is somewhat incongruous to the seriousness of the artist’s subject matter and themes.

    Similar to the American artist Cady Noland, whose Metal Fence installation in 1990 also explored violence through a structure of social exclusion, Lou’s oeuvre is socio-political by nature. The present lot is exemplary of this, as it confronts the vulnerability of the human body through a sculpture that alludes to the architecture of confinement. Moreover, like Lou’s earlier full-scale installations of the 1990s, Security Fence is characterized by the absence of a human subject. As the artist herself explains, the structure is a “claustrophobic enclosure […] with its layers and layers of chain link– a moiré effect, as if the pleasure and pain could go on forever.” (Liza Lou, in an interview with Jan Garden Castro for Sculpture Magazine, Vol. 28 No. 3, April 2009). The binary opposition of pleasure and pain forms a principle leitmotif in Lou’s work, one that is woven into her examination of lighter themes– such as the pleasure of looking– and darker ones that explore human endurance, and the division of labour between the sexes, races, and classes.

    Executed with a group of Zulu beaders living in and around Durban, South Africa (where American-born Lou is currently based), the chain-like fence enclosure simultaneously alludes to the artist’s concern with issues around security and fragility. As she explains, “I was initially responding to the images of torture and abuse happening in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. But as an American living and working in South Africa with all of the associations of danger, race issues and post apartheid, and the incredible amount of barbed wire that’s everywhere, I felt like I was working on a project in exactly the right place and time. All of this was further emphasized by the fact that I made this work with 20 Zulu women, all of whom knew very well the darker meaning of barbed wire fences. During apartheid, the whites surrounded the townships with barbed wire fencing so that they couldn’t get out. We talked often about what it meant, what we were doing– one of my workers, Buhle, said, ‘We are covering it with love’”, (Liza Lou, in T. Marlow, Liza Lou, exh. cat., Great Britain: White Cube, 2006).

    Constructed of beads of the smallest variety, with all their holes placed face-upwards, the labour-intensive process of Security Fence serves as a physical manifestation of the artist’s desire to not only “use time as part of the material,” but to delve into social themes. It is a practice akin to that of the artist Adel Abdessemed, who also draws upon a myriad of sources– political, social, or historical– in order to transform well-known materials and imagery into unexpected and charged artistic declarations, such as in his 2006 installation Wall Drawing. Indeed, Lou’s art “does not simply expose violence and hypocrisy, [but] overcomes it by offering an alternative.” (Jeanette Winterson on Lou’s exhibition in the White Cube in London). Here, the artist’s ‘alternative’ rests on her ability to embellish the world around her by metamorphosing her symbolically chosen object into a glistening sculpture. The painstaking labour process undergone by Lou to beautify the original construction, and transform an object synonymous with violence and cruelty, perhaps acts as a further analogy and reminder to the viewer of the enduring pain and suffering in the world.


Security Fence

steel, razor wire, glass beads
270 x 327.9 x 327.9 cm. (106 1/4 x 129 1/8 x 129 1/8 in.)
This work is from an edition of 3 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013